School Clothes: United States Individual Experiences

Figure 1.--

Many personal experiences archived on the main U.S. country page include school expeiences. We will archive personal accounts here that touch specifically on schoolwear. For the most part American personal experiences will not touch on uniforms as so few American boys have worn school uniforms.

The 1940s

Donald: New York State (1940s)

I was born in 1939. I can remember a bit about my early years and when I started school in New York state during 1944. We eventually moved to Pennsylvania. I particuilarly recall a blue wool sailor suit mother bought for me. It was kind of like my dress outfit as I didn't have a suit. I wore it a few times to school.

Jerry: California Catholic Junior High School (late-1940s)

I remember well what we wore as uniforms in the late-1940s, when I attended Catholic Junior High School in San Diego, California.

Richard: Kansas Elementry School (1940s-50s)

Richard has provided us information about his elementary (primary) school, Westwood View Elementary School in Shawnee Stationand provided his 4th grade class portrait. It is a good example of how elementary school children dressed at the time. The boys wear a variety of shirts and sweaters. Note the long-sleeved "T"-shirt. The boys wear long pants, including jeans. The girls all wear dresses or blouses and skirts. Some girls wear cardigan sweaters. Two girls wear saddle shoes. It must have been Scout day as some of the girls wear Girl Scout uniforms. I'm not sure why none of the boys wear Scout uniforms. At my school the Boy and Girl scouts (Cubs and Brownies) wore their uniforms on the same day, always Thursday. Our reader writes, "Here is a description. Maybe more detail than you need. But WWV was a classic and typical school of Kansas, and likely much of the non-urban US, in the 1940s.

Dennis: Public School (1940s-50s)

I wish I could recall my school days like some HBC readers are able to do. I started school in 1949. My first 5 years of elementary school were at West School in Washington D.C. The three story (I think) red brick building is now gone. A modern school has replaced it. I can not today clearly picture what we wore to school. As best I can recall no one wore sjort pants. I do recall corduroy pants and jeans. I think I wore leather shoes rather than smeakers. I do recall black rubberized raincoats and a kind of all encompasing rain hat. I definitely recall the galoshes I hated and my mother insist I wrar.

The 1950s

Henry: Military School (1950s)

I had kind of a bad experience with The Flintstones when I was very young. Such a terrible experience with The Flintstones that only watched the show once and then I could never stand to watch it again. Let me tell you about it. I was at the time in a military school.

George: Catholic Boarding School (1950s)

Succinctly, I grew up in America during the 1950s, my kismet then to be sent to exclusive Catholic boys’ schools until I began university. How this relates to the subject here concerns the uniform at the prep school I was obligated to attend as a youth— namely, its short pants. To understand why this would be an issue noteworthy, indulge me to begin with some brief annotation. In the interest of discretion and propriety, identifying names and locations will be left unmentioned. Re the school: Simply, it was the kind of status institution that catered to patrician families; a day academy for boys grades 6-9/ages 11-15; operated out of a mansion bequeathed for the purpose in the city’s old-money neighborhood; run by a religious order of brothers. Of note in this regard, like several of my classmates, my parents were neither Catholic or rich, just very “upwardly mobile,” as they say today, and the prestige of having a son at this school was a “must” for them despite of the cost. Anyway, while all this predictably would have made this school generally perceived about town as being one of “those” schools, it was its uniforms that made its public repute there then “notorious.”

Tom: Private Catholic School (1950s)

The Catholic boys' school I attended in the 1950s had a basic uniform for all students. It was a conservative black suit; with short pants mandatory for the elementry classes (grades 1 through 8; ages 6 to 14). Boys in the high school classes wore long trousers (grades 9 through 12; ages 15 to 18). I'm not sure when this uniform was introduced, byt shorts pants even for elementary school boys were quite out of fashion bu the 1950s. It caused us more than a little chagrin and indignation, not to mention teasing.

Craig: Public Schools in Washington and California (1950s-60s)

A HBC reader provides us some details about the public schools in Washington and Califirmia that he attended in the 1950s and 60s. He also has some insights on the 1970s and 80s.

The 1960s

Parochial School in Chicago and California (1960s)

I grew up in Chicago and California. My mother had European tastes concerning fashions. I wore short pants to Catholic School through the 8th grade. This was not "acceptable" to other boys in the 1960s and 70s so my friend Michael and I were always dodging abuse. An 8th grader in grey or blue short pants and knee socks was considered a sissy. I remember sone pretty rough back then.

Private School in New York City (1960s)

The first time I remember noticing my own clothes was on an Easter Sunday in the early 1960s in New York City. I think I was three and a half. I was very pleased with my outfit, which consisted of shortalls in robin’s egg blue cotton, with a bunch of orange carrots embroidered on the front pocket. I was also wearing a white button shirt with a round, Peter Pan collar. I had on short white socks, and my shoes were those red t-strap sandals with two buckles. I’m sure that I was old enough not to need the diaper changing crotch snaps that shortalls sometimes have. It was a warm day, and I remember feeling very light and summery and loose.

Private School in Washington, D.C. (1960s)

The strongest memories that I have about the clothes I wore as a boy was the short pants my parents insisted on. Back in 1960, a boy could head for an elite, private East Coast school in a navy blue blazer, bowtie, gray flannel short pants, and navy blue knee socks and provoke no reaction--or at least nothing that registered in his memory. That same boy in that same outfit a year later would cause a minor riot on the streets of a small Western town.

The 1970s

Peter: Gym Uniforms (1960s-70s)

Rules for what students wear during gym class in the United States vary from school to school. So what I describe applies to the schools I attended. All of the schools that I went to were public (state) schools in California during the 1960s and 1970s. The elementary school and junior high school that I attended had lax dress codes, and the high school had no dress code. My impression is that in general, junior high schools and high schools in the United States have specific rules about what can be worn in gym class even if the school has no rules concerning what students wear the rest of the day. The phrase "gym uniform" may not be the best way to describe this requirement, since usually the only thing that is uniform about the clothes is the color of the trunks and possibly the color of the T-shirt. If most of the students buy their gym clothes from the school, that may add more uniformity.

Gary: Private Schools in New Jersey (1970s)

I attended private school for three of my twelve years, fourth through sixth grade, in Northern New Jersey in the mid-1970s.


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Created: July 3, 2002
Last updated: 1:59 AM 7/1/2008